Dr. Adam Kirton

Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute, University of Calgary

Perinatal stroke, a stroke occurring sometime between mid-pregnancy and the first month of an infant’s life, is the leading cause of hemiparetic cerebral palsy (CP). The condition is often characterized by motor dysfunction, and this aspect of the disability has been greatly explored as an avenue for rehabilitation. Sensory dysfunction, on the other hand, is also commonly associated with hemiparetic CP, but is understudied and rarely considered as a possibility for therapeutic intervention as there are few ways for it to be objectively measured. Dr. Adam Kirton, a researcher at the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute and a professor at the University of Calgary, is using the Kinarm to expand our knowledge of sensory dysfunction caused by CP.

His research has used several Kinarm Standard Tests to try and quantify the magnitude of sensory dysfunction in children with hemiparetic CP.  His studies have demonstrated that kinesthesia and position sense deficits are common in children with this condition and correlate with tract diffusion properties. Dr. Kirton has also dedicated time towards examining the kinematics of motor impairment from stroke with the Kinarm Exoskeleton Lab. He found that unilateral perinatal stroke causes deficits in not only the “affected” arm, but also in the “unaffected” arm. These results invite new strategies for addressing sensorimotor deficits and emphasize the multitude of possibilities that can be explored.

Dr. Kirton’s current research is focused on the effectiveness of different therapies for patients with hemiparetic CP. These include methods such as transcranial direct-current simulation (tDCS) and non-invasive neuromodulation. His research is providing promise for children facing life-long impairments from perinatal stroke.

Key findings:

  • Robot-measured deficits in position sense and reaching with the contralesional limb appear to be relatively independent of each other and correlations for both with clinical measures are modest (Kuczynski et al, 2021)
  • Proprioceptive impairments in stroke-induced hemiparetic CP patients correlated with dorsal column medial lemniscus (DCML) tract diffusion properties, suggesting a possible target for therapeutic intervention (Kuczynski et al, 2017)
  • Corticospinal tract (CST) diffusion properties are altered after perinatal stroke, the degree of which correlates with elements of visually guided reaching performance, suggesting relevance of CST structural connectivity to clinical motor function in hemiparetic CP children (Kuczynski et al, 2017)
  • The “unaffected” limb of stroke-induced hemiparetic cerebral palsy often shows abnormal motor function and may be a target for therapeutic interventions (Kuczynski et al, 2018)
  • Following transcranial direct-current simulation (tDCS) and high-definition (HD) tDCS, certain aspects of kinesthesia and motor learning improved (Giuffre et al, 2021; Cole et al, 2018)